During Covid, Christians were quick to obey the government, even when the government stepped beyond its God-appointed limits. Where was our courage? What do the Scriptures say about this? And what can we learn from courageous believers who have gone before us?
Christians are called to be salt and light wherever God puts us. In the post-Christian West, our challenge is to fulfil this calling in a culture that is quickly drifting away from its Christian moorings.
In recent articles, we have considered how the church is going in the face of this enormous challenge. When confronted by conscience issues and society’s definition of compassion during Covid, Christians could have shown much better leadership.
But how did we do when it came to courage?
Fear has been the prevailing spirit of the last two years. As followers of Jesus, we’ve had the opportunity to walk in the opposite spirit.
This doesn’t mean acting recklessly. When I speak of courage, I don’t so much mean courage in the face of the virus — because your risk might be very different to mine. I’m talking about the courage to stand up for what we know is true and right.
A Cure Worse Than the Disease
We’ve now entered a very interesting stage in Western history when the instinct is to look for government help in most aspects of life. This has been building for some time, but Covid really brought it to the surface.
Of course, there’s a place for governments to protect the community when there is a serious threat to public health. But our leaders skipped straight from doing nothing to mandating everything. Rarely were we given the opportunity to exercise common sense and voluntary care for each other.
In the process, we learned to distrust, blame and dob on each other. Human rights were squashed and even forgotten. The cure was often worse than the disease.
We also showed how willing we are to live under indefinite emergency powers. Still today, our country — including every state and territory — is under a state of emergency, even though all of our leaders’ goals have been achieved!
You Can’t Please a Divided World
Instead of challenging the overreach and the fear, many Christians were quick to spiritualise it, saying, “We’ve got to lead by example. The world is watching”.
But which world was watching? Our world is split in two, on Covid and many other things.
If we live to please unbelievers who are very much committed to Covid panic, there are millions of other unbelievers, who’ve been suffering and marching in protests, who will see our Christian faith as cowardly and useless.
If we aim to please one half of a divided world we will inevitably upset the other half. The point is this: Jesus didn’t save us and send us into the world to curate our public image. He called us to be salt and light and a city on a hill (Matthew 5:13-16) — no matter what a divided world thinks.
A Place for Peaceful Resistance
Some of our culture’s greatest heroes knew this. Think of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. Bonhoeffer and the Confessing Church. The protesters at Tiananmen Square. Believers behind the Iron Curtain before the fall of Communism.
With the passing of time, we elevate these people and write biographies about them. But they were divisive characters. They practiced peaceful resistance. A lot of people hated them at the time — in some cases, the majority of Christians wrote them off as rabble rousers. But we thank God for them today.
The ink is not yet dry on the Covid story. Those with their bank accounts frozen in Canada, anti-mandate Americans being treated like domestic terrorists, Victorians who were subjected to beatings, tear gas and rubber bullets — they may yet be the heroes of the story. Maybe our great grandchildren will read about them in their public school textbooks.
Jesus Set Limits on Government
In Romans 13, God says, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.” That’s the rule. But there is an exception. God has appointed these rulers, we read, not as “a terror to good conduct, but to bad”. What if governments cross that line between good and bad? We can debate where that line is crossed — but it can be crossed.
Jesus said it himself: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Jesus set a limit on the authority of earthly government. You and I owe the government our obedience on most things. But if they demand from us what rightly belongs to God — our bodies, our conscience, our worship — we can and must resist.
If that was true under a tyrant like Caesar, how much more so in representative democracies? In the West, God has ordained governments “of, for and by the people”. It would be wrong for us to sit idly by if our elected leaders oppressed or inflicted suffering on others.
Courage Isn’t Selfish
Standing up isn’t selfish. Like the heroes we celebrate, it might cost us our reputation in the short term. But we do it to protect others from injustice. We do it for those who can’t defend themselves. We do it for the rights and freedoms of everyone — even those who are against us.
Please don’t hear me issuing some kind of call to arms. But for some of the challenges that may lie ahead beyond Covid, God’s church does have to start thinking about peaceful resistance. If Australia ever has an underground church, that’s exactly what we’ll be doing.
By God’s mercy, it will never come to that. But in every age, we need courage — and the resolve to obey our Lord whether it has mainstream approval or not.
Originally published at the Daily Declaration.
7 thoughts on “Learning from Covid: Why Christians Must Recover Their Courage”
Kurt, brilliant! I think you have hit the nail squarely on the head! I agree wholeheartedly that Christians as a whole lost their courage over the C-19 issue, but my thought here is, what about the leadership of the churches? Yes ‘the people’ are the churches and I suspect they ‘inform’ the church leadership, but why have our churches become run by ‘opinion polls’ as well as our political parties? Where are the church leaders of conviction of no compromise and of courage? They are very few on the ground it seems to me.
Hmm evil government putting a few restrictions on and saving thousands of lives. Basically satanic right?
Seriously the stars speak for themselves… 10 times more deaths per capita in the US where people kept a “bit more freedom”
Praise God for a sensible Australian government doing the right thing in a real emergency
Another terrific piece,thanks Kurt. We do need to be clear in our own minds what belongs to God and what to man. Conscience based on careful study of the Word is so important. So many doing what is convenient in the short term, but at what cost long term?
Okay… so I get what you’re saying, but the data is out that these mandates saved many lives and got us to where we are now. The government was in a very difficult position and we were blessed to be so protected. Compare that with other nations who weren’t so lucky. The virus has mutated and not so deadly these days thankfully but if we had been let loose in the early days who knows how things would look now. I am very grateful to our government and I do think people will look back and see that our government ultimately did us a favour when compared with other nations. The protests already look incredibly foolish when looking back at the time and I initially thought at the time they might actually be doing some good, but now I see the protestors as the fearful ones. I also don’t understand people seeing themselves as more righteous than the average person and not getting vaccinated when those vaccinated are doing so so that they can continue to serve others in their God-given vocations. If anyone sacrificed it was those who were vaccinated for this cause, not those who weren’t. Vaccines have been mandated for children for a very long time so what say of this? I say Thankyou God, for we prayed for help and he graciously gave it.
Thank you for your comments, Jo. I have responded to many of your objections here: https://kurtmahlburg.blog/2021/09/21/the-case-for-vaccine-passports-is-feeble-and-fading/. Blessings.
Kurt, I love your main argument and sadly, it seems to me that some of your respondents don’t. I firmly believe that we all have a God given convenience, whether Christian convert or not. It seems to me that each one of use can become a fuller more integrated human being if we nurture our conscience, practice responding to it and letting our conscience be our guide. I think that most in society have ‘turned off conscience’ on our our phones all the more content to look to governments to think and mandate for us, it saves us having to make the hard calls. of ‘denying ourselves’. Lets be men and women who stand for what is right and chose to look to the greats of the past as our inspiration, such as the Apostle Paul. Look where his conscience took him!
Thank you for saying what you have said. I found many so-called Christian’s reaction despicable. They complied without thinking even when I, who have been struggling with my physical health, told them not to believe the lies, and boy were we lied to by governments.
They forgot how to love and I suppose they never really loved in the first place. It is the separation of the wheat and the tares. Many in my fellowship took the wretched vaccines despite the fact I warned them they would do no good. Several fell ill and were quite unwell for sometime. They paid the price for not heeding my warnings.